Frostwriting

No Regrets

by Barbara Biles

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  Calvin always asked, “No regrets?”  Now I use it as my mantra.  No regrets, no regrets, no regrets.  Like that, over and over and over.
  I met him over the radio.  By day he was a psychologist.  Had the mustache and beard but looked more like Lenin than Freud.  I didn’t know what he looked like, of course, when we first hit it off.  After my evening shift at the hospital I needed to wind down so I tuned in and there he was moonlighting with his mellifluous voice, kept low key for the midnight crowd.  He seemed like God’s gift to the intricacies of jazz, especially swing and gypsy, describing propulsive or languid rhythms.  (He claimed to have been somewhat of a gypsy in his younger days, following bands across Europe before settling on Freud.)  But his analytic take on every composition, referring to dreams or unconscious associations, was all speculative.  Bullshit, really.  That’s the reason I got involved in the first place, not realizing he was a real psychologist.  I called in to protest his comment that clarinetists have an oral fixation.  I am proof against that falsehood.  I explained my stint in the high school band.  Also, that I had never sucked my thumb, never bit my nails.
  He said that I had a seductive voice.  Then he put me on hold while he spun a Django Reinhardt anecdote for his listeners.  It was, for me, surreal as we arranged our rendevous with My Sweet playing on the radio.
  This is where we first met in the flesh.  Spiros has always been my favourite place.  Reminds me of the Mediterranean, not that I’ve ever been there.  Calvin gave me DH Lawrence’s The Virgin and The Gypsy to read and said I should try to use my instincts and intuition more and not be so uptight.  I guess he still thought himself part gypsy and I guess he thought I needed a new kind of education; to be saved from certain small town constraints, just as Lawrence’s spell binding Gypsy transformed the oppressed and virginal Yvette.  Though the Gypsy was older and married he was free spirited, kind of like Calvin, and he saved Yvette’s life from a deluge and while enduring that flood she learned to “be braver in the body.”  She stopped obsessing about him as well.
  In the end water was a factor.  They pulled Calvin out of Lake Windermere (he was on vacation).  Somehow, the driver, his wife, jumped out just in time but Calvin’s door apparently jammed.  There was an on-air memorial service so I did feel a part of the farewell.  They had an archival bit with Stéphane Grappelli and played “Django’s Tears” and compared the percussive sounds of the guitars and the diminished arpeggios to Calvin’s irrepressible love of gypsy jazz.
  And I have my mantra.

Barbara Biles lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her most recent publications were in The Toronto Quarterly and The Antigonish Review .

Issue 12 contents

Poetry